Monthly Archives: February 2014

VA farmers market

I was a bit surprised when I found out there was a farmers market every Wednesday at the VA. After that wore off, I was super excited. I haven’t been to a farmers market in quite a while because I never want to drive too far or fight for parking. Two farmers markets near me that I would recommend are ones in Pasadena. My favorite one is the one across from UCI in Irvine. I’m a weirdo when it comes to farmers markets. My sister always makes fun of me because I go to buy hot food, snacks, occasionally some berries, bread, hummus, and kettle corn. Apparently that defeats the whole purpose of going to a “farmers” market but whatever. I never like shopping for veggies even when I go to the grocery store so that will never change.
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I bought two bags of butter toffee peanuts and a bag of Jonagold apples. The peanuts were so effin good!! One bag is already gone. I got two bags for under $4 which is a pretty sweet deal since they sell by the pound. I got 5 humungous apples for $2 which I also think is pretty awesome.
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I bought a 1/2 pak of strawberries for $6. Usually that doesn’t happen but the Cerritos/Long Beach/Fountain Valley area always sells the 1/2 paks for $6. The ones in Pasadena and Irvine both sell 3 pints for $6-8 dollars which is a total rip off! My berries were glorious 🙂 I just had a brownie ice cream sundae with strawberries and chocolate sauce! 🙂

The staff were really nice and they had a big selection of snacks which I loved. I was a bit disappointed with their bread selection. They had this weird cinnamon bread that looked more like pound cake so no bread for me. They had a big variety of veggies like cucumbers, carrots, brussel sprouts, onions, different herbs. They also had pineapples, bananas, tangerines, mangoes, oranges, strawberries, and apples. They sell Peanut Butter Co. peanut butter too. I wanted to buy some but they didn’t have the flavors I like. This farmers market takes credit card! SCORE!! 🙂 The only down side was some of my strawberries were getting ripe too fast. When I inspected the box, they were okay but once I got home they were super ripe so I had to wash/eat a lot of em. A lot faster than I planned to anyway. Toodles!

Fail Sweetly,
Justina

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Project Give: Baking For Veterans

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On Monday I brought in chocolate brownies for the vets. They gave me a lot of flack for topping them with powdered sugar. The brownies became known as the cocaine and marijuana brownies. No, the vets aren’t druggies. However, most of them fought in Vietnam so it was a different era back then. Regardless of all the flack, they loved them! 🙂 It’s funny because I think they spread the word. I’ll be walking in the halls of the hospital and random volunteers who I’ve never met before will ask me if I baked anything today. I always feel bad when I say no.

I love my Dixie Crystal cookie tin. I took the raspberry bars in them so I used it again for the brownies. The tin was pretty much emptied out by the time I left. Some of the volunteers said they were “saving them” for the afternoon crew but they were gone!

Chocolate Brownies (adapted from PW)
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
3 oz dark chocolate
1 1/2 sticks butter
2-3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 eggs
1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon powdered sugar for garnishing (optional)

– preheat oven to 350 degrees
– melt butter and chocolate in a medium sized pot
– once melted, take off heat and stir in cocoa powder
– let cool for 5 minutes
– add vanilla and stir
– add sugar and stir again
– add eggs one at a time and stir
– add flour and stir until half way incorporated
– add chocolate chips and stir until fully mixed
– pour into a 13×9 greased pan
– bake for about 20-30 minutes
– allow to cool completely and top with powdered sugar

I like these brownies with ice cream. They taste amazing with vanilla swiss almond ice cream! 🙂 I love me a good ice cream sundae. It’s definitely a new way of making brownies but very worth it. Thanks PW!

Fail Sweetly,
Justina

Volunteering VA hospital #2

Be friendly and smile. That was the advice one of the older volunteers gave me my first day. I always thought I’m a very friendly person and someone who smiles a lot but people often tell me otherwise. While I was walking back to the kiosk today, a veteran walked by me and I said hello and asked how he was doing. He seemed surprised but was smiling ear to ear. He told me it’s great to see someone smile every now and then because people don’t do it very often. I noticed that sometimes when I say good morning or hi to people they seem really surprised. I love volunteering at the VA. I get to practice the great customer service skills that I acquired over the years. I learn something every day from the veterans and their spirits put me in awe.

Yesterday I learned where SCI (spinal cord injury) was and today I made it to dermatology without getting lost. It was pretty awesome 🙂 I got a pretty good workout today and yesterday. I always leave the house with a sweater because the weather in Long Beach is not the same as the valley. After I arrive with my sweater on, my first escort has me tossing the sweater because my blood is pumping. I love the workout that it involves. I’ll get a pretty good workout tomorrow. One of the perks of volunteering is the free meal ticket. If you volunteer for 4 or more hours a day, you can get a free meal ticket worth $6. You can buy anything at the canteen/cafe with it. Usually I get a salad and a bag of chips or some chicken tenders and a drink. They have a AWESOME sandwich area which is Subway only it’s not. Everything at that counter reminds me of Subway. The salads are pretty good and they have quite a few options. I love the hot food section because they have chicken tenders, burritos, taquitos and more.

That’s it for my third time volunteering! 🙂 I can actually show people how to get to places without getting lost now! 😀

Fail Sweetly,
Justina

Rita’s Ice (Arcadia, CA)

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I love Rita’s Ice! The wild cherry ice and vanilla custard combo Gelati is my favorite. Rita’s Ice locations are usually down in the San Diego/Escondido area but they opened one about 10 minutes from my house in Arcadia! 🙂 It was a nice day out today so I decided to get me a Gelati. I’ve been craving them for the longest. Today I got the cherry ice and vanilla custard combo. They put a layer of vanilla custard on the bottom then fill the cup with ice and then top it off with more custard.
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They had three custard flavors when I went, chocolate, vanilla, and light vanilla. They also had a pretty big selection of ice. There was mocha, cherry, pineapple, mango, green apple, lemonade, blue raspberry, and a few others. I believe the flavors change daily so you’d have to keep up with it on their Facebook page or their website. The regular Gelati is $4.20 with tax included. Not bad for the portion size. My flavor combo today reminded me of an Icee with ice cream. It was sooo good!
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Here’s what it looks like in the middle! The girl behind the counter was really nice and friendly. She said I could sample as much as I wanted. How awesome is that?! Next time I think I’ll get half chocolate and half vanilla custard cone. Their custard is really good.

Fail Sweetly,
Justina

Project Give: Baking For Veterans

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I finally got around to uploading the pictures I took of the bars I made! YAY! It’s only been a week so I guess it’s not that bad. Anyway, when I started volunteering at the VA hospital I wanted bake as well. It seemed like a great idea because I got to see veterans and volunteers and bake for them. The guys loved the bars I made them and one of them even commented that I used really good butter! Haha 🙂 I’m using my Dixie Crystal cookie tin I got from The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2013. It works like a charm. I already have people saying, “are you making more?” My supervisor told me to fill it up the next time I come in. Roger that sir! 🙂

Raspberry Oatmeal Bars (adapted from PW)
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 sticks butter (softened works best)
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cup quick oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 12oz jar of raspberry preserves

– preheat oven to 350 degrees
– in a large bowl, add all ingredients except the preserves
– using a fork or a pastry cutter, mix the dry ingredients with the butter until you get coarse like bread crumbs
– pour half of the mixture into a baking dish (13×9) and press down slightly
– pour the jar of preserves on top and smooth out (make sure you warm it up a bit so it spreads easily)
– pour the second half of the mixture on top and flatten slightly
– bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes
– let cool completely before cutting into (it could take several hours but you want the preserves to set so it doesn’t become a mess)
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These bars are delicious! I also made a batch of boysenberry ones. They didn’t really care which ones were which because most of them ate both. I’m glad they enjoyed them! I was hesitant about bringing them because I only bake for friends and family. You should try it out! 🙂

Fail Sweetly,
Justina

OC Blogger Brunch

I just got back from the OC Blogger Brunch earlier today. We had the brunch at Great Over Good which is a cute art studio in Santa Ana a few minutes from the John Wayne Airport. The brunch benefits two charities, Working Wardrobes and The Princess Project. Working Wardrobes provides professional clothing to at risk or homeless individuals. The Princess Project provides prom dresses, shoes, and accessories for young girls who would otherwise be unable to attend their prom. This is the first blogger meet up I’ve done and I must say I loved it! It was so awesome to see all these ladies in person after reading their blogs! 🙂 Thank you to Melyssa, Jess, Naadine, Ana, and Megan who helped plan today’s festivities.

!!ATTN!! IF YOU USE MY PHOTOS PLEASE GIVE CREDIT WHERE IT IS DUE! THANKS!

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Awesome message that greets you when you first walk in the studio.
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The craft that we made and got to take home. It’s pretty much a awesome body scrub. It contains brown sugar, this coconut substance that I can’t name, almond oil, and rose pedals.
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Fruit platter at the brunch.
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Delicious blueberry french toast! It was soooo awesome.
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Cute cups for mimosas and orange juice!
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Blueberry sauce for the french toast.
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Victoria of Poverty Luxe at the crafts table.
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The awesomely decorated room 🙂
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I loved the flowers on the table. They were so pretty!
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The crafts table where we got to make our awesome body scrub.
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We all got name tags to help identify us and our blogs!
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Some of the artwork hanging in the studio.
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More beautiful flowers!
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The front counter with all the drinks.
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Elizabeth who blogs over at The Young Retiree!
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All the goodies that the bloggers donated to Working Wardrobes and The Princess Project.
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Kara from Ramblings of a Marine Wife! I was super excited to meet her because she’s awesome! 🙂 Kara sponsored February’s giveaway for Project Give so definitely check out her blog. I didn’t get a picture of us with my camera so this is from hers 🙂 YOU ARE AWESOME KARA!
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A gift from Naadine who owns Great Over Good.
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The potato and egg casserole? I’m not sure what it was called. I don’t remember it because the french toast was boss!
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Naadine and I! And I think it’s Nicole of Delovely Details and Tammy of Bay Park Dream in the back.
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BE GREAT!

It was so fun! I think next time I’ll have to have some business cards to pass out. Overall it was a wonderful experience and there’s going to be an event every month! SoCal Bloggers Giving Back is going to have our next event on March 29th (Saturday) at Great Over Good. This time we’ll be packaging goodies to send to troops overseas. Pizza and wine! I’m so there!! 🙂 Stay tuned for more details.

Fail Sweetly,
Justina

Volunteering VA Hospital: #1

I got home a few hours ago after volunteering at the VA. I must say, today was one of the best and humble experiences I’ve ever had in my life. It sounds kind of strange when I say it but I really feel like this will change my perspective about life and help me grow as a person. I’m surrounded by such wonderful, humble, and sweet veterans who tell me all sorts of stories. And I got the honor to meet a MOH recipient. He was so nice and humble. We shared a few laughs when I told him about big bro being a marine and he said he didn’t approve of the marines (he was in the army). I was floored by him. It sounds weird when I say it but he was oozing with inspiration. He must have read my mind because he asked me if I had a crush on him…haha!

I worked a 6.5 hour shift with a break in between. As an ambassador, I escort patients to and from areas of the hospital. I haven’t walked that much since my UCI days so I was out of shape. I had to run after some of the more seasoned volunteers to catch up. I do have to say, I definitely need to get back into the habit of exercising. Being out of shape made it hurt all over when I walked. I was also hurting on my 1.5 hour drive home. Traffic wasn’t too bad but wow, I’m so out of shape! I knew I was out of shape but I really didn’t know to what extent until today. Hopefully I’ll lose lots of weight while volunteering there 🙂

I brought raspberry and boysenberry oatmeal bars with me to the volunteer office and the guys ate it up. Many of the volunteers are veterans themselves. They were hilarious and I felt so honored to be among them. They also requested that I make more food the next time I volunteer. That part was hilarious. Banana bread and oatmeal molasses cookies next! 🙂

Fail Sweetly,
Justina